Preston man and Liverpool FC legend Brian Hall dies

Brian Hall

Brian Hall

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One of Preston’s most famous footballing sons Brian Hall has died at the age of 68 after a battle with leukaemia

Although he never played for North End, Hall was a proud Prestonian, who grew up in the city before going on to be part of the great Liverpool sides of the 1960s and 70s.

A former Preston Grammar School pupil, who was born in Glasgow, Hall played 224 times for the Reds, scoring 21 goals between April 1969 and April 1976.

One of his finest games for the club came when he played the full match in the 1974 FA Cup final as Bill Shankly’s Liverpool beat Newcastle United 3-0 at Wembley.

He also hit a dramatic FA Cup semi-final winner in 1971 when Liverpool beat Merseyside rivals Everton to reach Wembley for the first time since 1965.

Hall returned to the club in 1991 to head the club’s public relations department, a role he held until 2011 when he retired through health reasons a

He also played for Plymouth Argyle and Burnley.

Hall was interviewed by the Evening Post in 2010 when he discussed his life in football, which is reproduced below

WITH a degree in mathematics to his name and a magnicent football career behind him, it is fair to say Liverpool legend Brian Hall is no dummy.

But when your unusual body manoeuvre leads to one of the FA Cup’s alltime great goals it is dif cult to shake off the “ dummy” tag. Hall, of course, played an eccentric, yet integral, role in Kevin Keegan’s opening goal of the 1974 FA Cup nal against Newcastle United.

When Tommy Smith centred, Hall looked like he was about to head the ball, but at the last moment dived underneath it.

His shimmy fooled United’s defence and the ball ran on to Keegan, who controlled and swivelled, before detonating a shot into the top corner.

The goal signalled one of the virtuoso performances from any team in a cup nal as the mighty Reds, under legendary manager Bill Shankly, went on to lift the cup thanks to a 30 victory.

And Hall, from Preston, chuckles when he recounts his memories of the famous dummy.

He said; “I still get some stick about it now. I had gone to flick it on because I knew Kevin was in there but I heard a shout.

“How the hell you hear a shout in the middle of that stadium.

“Anyway, I’d gone to flick it on and left it at the last minute. “ It looks like I had gone and just missed it so I still get a bit of stick for that, but I had just ducked under it.”

Hall, however, was quick to dispel the myth that it was something he and Keegan had worked on on the training ground. He added: “Training ground move what’s one of them?”

It’s a carefree response typical of man brought up in a golden era of the game untouched by the commercial and ultra professional world that the modern game inhabits.

There were no £100,000 a week wages, parachute payments or Monday night football in Hall’s day.

In fact, it was not uncommon for Hall to arrive at Liverpool’s Melwood training ground wearing a bus conductor’s uniform he used to work on the old Ribble buses primarily as a summer job while he was at university.

One particular day, he arrived at Melwood and was busy hanging up his uniform on his designated peg when in walked Shankly.

He takes up the story: “ When I was a student, I worked it out during preseason training that if I had a late shift on the buses, I could go through to Liverpool in the morning.

“ I’d use my conductor’s badge to get a free ride, train in the morning, come back and then start my late shift. “ I asked if I could do that and Joe Fagan said, ‘ Yes, it’s a good idea’.

Obviously, I couldn’t do it everyday because it was a hell of a long day.

“ Anyhow, so I turned up one morning with my busman’s uniform on. “ Obviously, you can imagine the craic coming out especially from the rest team lads, some of whom had never seen me before. “

I got ushered into the apprentices’ changing room and started undoing my jacket when all of a sudden the great man Shanks walks in. ‘ Great to be alive boys’, he says.

“And then looks at me with my busman’s uniform on. “

He had seem me play for the reserve team, but generally did not really know me as such. “ He’s looking me up and down in this busman’s uniform and says, ‘ Are you the boy from university, son?’ “ I said yes.

“ He looked me up and down again says, ‘ Son, do you need a degree these days to be a bus conductor?’

“ It was a genuine question.

I’m like, ‘ No boss it’s my summer holiday job’.”

Hall admits there was an innocence about Shankly, but, even to this day, he is adamant he has never come across a more extraordinary man.

It was the great Liverpool manager who turned Hall from an academic fresh out of university into a topflight footballer.

He added: “ It doesn’t matter what stories you hear about him, or what exaggerated stories you hear about him, because most of the stories get exaggerated as the years go by.

“ It doesn’t matter what you hear about him... it would never do him justice.

“He was the most remarkable man I have ever met in my life. The character he had, the strength of character he had.

The largeness of his character, his charisma... his ability to communicate t o h u g e numbers of people.

“ We’re not just taking about standing up in front of a room full of people, but hundreds of thousands of people itwas quite staggering. He also had this ability to stay positive all the time.

“ I remember our team meetings, in comparison to current modern day tactics and everything that the modern game demands, were all about how good we were that was the message.

“ We are the greatest. He would punch our hands at every team meeting.

“ And when you a r e constantly hearing the same message, it gets in there, ‘ We were the best’.

“ It was brilliant psychology.

“ He would throw in a few laughs every now and then. But everything he would say in public would be positive about the team.

“ There was an innocence about him to the worldly world.

“ His life had revolved around football for so long.

“ But he was such a clever man, intelligent, sharpwitted, street wise.

“ There were certain elements of his life like with football and dealing with media and the ability to communicate with large numbers o f people which were remarkable.

“ Some of the materialistic things in life, I think he was pretty naive in a nice way.”

Hall lived the dream at Anfeld as Liverpool developed into the most formidable winning machine in the history of the English game.

Yet for Hall, becoming a footballer was never a dream for him.

A pupil of Preston Grammar School, Hall was both academically astute and athletically gifted. He cut a fine figure on the sports eld as a youngster, but also a studious pupil in the classroom.

But while loving the game of football, it was winning a coveted place at university which remained the goal of the talented youngHall. He added: “ It’s every schoolboy’s dream to be a footballer, but it never was a dream for me.

“ The reality of it was, quite simply, back in the late 1950 early 1960s, ayoung lad growing up in Moor Nook, there were not many whitecollar workers by the very nature of that it was just after the war “

So to be given, potentially, the opportunity to go to university back in those days was just amazing.

“ I don’t know what the gure was, but it wouldn’t be much more than four or ve per cent of the school population would end up at university.

“ When I was in my fourth year, Preston North End knocked on the door and that was via a lad called Mickey Burns.

“ Mickey lived across the road from me, we were the same age.

“ Now Mickey went on to play for Blackpool, Newcastle and Middlesbrough as a pro and then went to work for the PFA.

“ Mickey and I went to different schools but we, obviously, knew one and other.

“ So I started on Wednesday evenings with the rest of the schoolboys at Deepdale.

“ Back in those days, that was my team. I remember Tom Finney and so Preston was iconic.

“ But shortly after I started going to Deepdale, we had a parents ’ evening at school . I remember the physics t eacher giving me, looking back, the best piece of advice.

“ He said to my parents, ‘ What on Earth is your son going to North End for... do you not want him to go to university?’

At the time I was doing my ‘O’ levels a year early, so it was a busy year.

“ I was obviously in the A-stream.

“ Mum and dad came home and said, ‘ What do you think?’ I said, ‘ That’s ne. If university is the goal, if that’s what we think I can achieve then we will go for that’.

“ So I gave it up at North End.”

Hall’s life would take an extraordinary twist of fate when he decided that he wanted to study for a degree at the city of Liverpool.

It was a love for music that drew Hall to the city, where the Mersey Beat sound was in full swing in the early 60s.

“ You’ve got to remember, early 1960s when I am at the age when I am beginning to listen to music in your teenage years what hits the scene the Mersey Beat sound,” he added “ The Beatles, Gerry and the Pacemakers, Searchers, Swinging Blues Jeans... there was a whole raft of them. “ So far me, when it came to applications for university rst choice... Liverpool, second choice.... Liverpool, third choice... Liverpool.

“ I did not want to go anywhere else and that was primarily to do with the music scene around at that time.”

After turning up at his new university digs overlooking Penny Lane, Hall was in heaven.

“ He set about his studies with relish while enjoying the unique social scene Liverpool had to offer. Amazingly, it was a friend of his that wrote to Liverpool FC asking if Hall could have a trial and the rest, as they say, is history. “ A friend of mine Derek Thompson wrote to Peter Thompson, who was a Liverpool player. “

They were no relation, but Derek knew him casually. “ Peter Thompson passed the letter on and Derek got the response from Liverpool.

“ It wasn’t addressed to me, but to my dad. In fact my dad has still got the letter to this day.”

It signalled the start of an amazing association with the club for Hall.

He signed amateur forms initially while he completed his degree and turned pro in 1968. He played more than 200 times for the Reds, winning league championship medals in 1973 under Shankly and 1976 under Bob Paisley.

He was also part of two UEFACup successes, although famously he was dropped by Shankly in ’ 73 for the two-legged final against Borussia Mönchengladbach.

The first leg was abandoned after 30 minutes due to a waterlogged pitch, but Shankly had seen a weakness in the Germans’ lineup and when the first leg was replayed, he decided to drop the diminutive Hall for the aerial ability of John Toshack.

Liverpool went on win the second leg 3-0 and secured the European trophy 3-2 on aggregate.

Hall added: “ It was a tactical switch and, unfortunately, I was the man who came out.

“ They had a lad called Neeskens who was playing at the back as sweeper. He was a brilliant midfield player he tore us to bits in the second leg.

“ But he wasn’t very good in the air, so the manager threw John on and we won.

“ So irrespective of what I thought of the manager at that time, when the team was read out, the manager was right end of.”

Hall, who also played for Plymouth Argyle and Burnley, is still very close to Anfield due to his involvement with Liverpool’s PR department a position he has held since 1993.

And he admits the club has changed beyond all recognition from his days when the Kop used to sing Beatles songs and the well-renowned Anfield bootroom was in full swing.

He added: “ The football industry has changed since my day. The way that football is actually managed, the lifestyles required, the training and coaching methods are different.

“ But you have to compete in your world as of today.

“ And today all the other top clubs have the changes which have happened in the last 40 years. And if you are not in that, then you will definitely not win.

“ You’ve got to join the gang, that’s the way it is.

“ We lived in a different time, our lifestyles were very different to the modern player.

“ It’s easy for me to say, ‘ In my day we did it this way and we won everything’.

“ Of course we did but everyone else was doing the same things as we were doing, it’s just that we had very talented players.

“ The football industry has changed enormously, you just have to look at the amount of money and income that it generates – it’s phenomenal.

“ Very different to when I played but I will say this, football reflects the world that we live in. It does not set trends.

“ I get asked the question, ‘ I bet you would like to play in today’s game. And I say, ‘ Yeah I’d like to be earning £40grand, £50grand a week.

“ Of course you would, but I had a fantastic time, met some great pals. I’ve got medals and played in some great stadiums in Europe.

“ I’m still remembered to this day. How can you be remembered after all this time? But you are in Liverpool.”